Be­ing a dog owner isn’t easy, it’s re­ally hard work and a con­sid­er­able com­mit­ment, but the pay­back is huge

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - THIS LIFE - Deadly Blind by Siob­hain Bunni is pub­lished by Pool­beg and out now

I HELD OUT AS LONG AS I COULD. But it was point­less. I was weak. Their will was strong. Against all the empty I-swear-I’ll-walk-him prom­ises and my protes­ta­tions about dog hair and dog smells, af­ter more than ten years of con­stant pes­ter­ing, I just gave in. It was more than a weak mo­ment. Any­way, I se­cretly thought it would be good for my kids to have to care for some­thing be­yond them­selves.

Run­ning along­side the mak­ing of the de­ci­sion to ac­tu­ally own a dog was what flavour of dog it might be. As a fam­ily we went through all the va­ri­eties a mil­lion times and changed our minds a mil­lion more. There was a lot to con­sider, like how often he’d be left on his own, the amount of walk­ing he’d need, how loyal he’d be as a pet and whether or not he’d al­ways be look­ing to es­cape.

We each had our own pref­er­ences – a pug was the strong­est con­tender de­spite my gripe that I couldn’t love an ugly dog, un­til, even­tu­ally, we set­tled on a Golden Retriever.

So Milo ar­rived like a cud­dly cloud of cute­ness and fluff to change our lives.

Ini­tially I thought we were blessed. Hav­ing heard all the hor­ror sto­ries about pups that eat chair legs and skirt­ing boards, the re­lief when he didn’t dis­play a taste for either was pal­pa­ble. All he did was pee. Ev­ery­where. All the time. For the best part of six months he treated ev­ery car­pet as his very own pri­vate toi­let. He didn’t care if it was deep-pile, syn­thetic, wool, cream in colour or that the house was fast be­gin­ning to smell like a ken­nel.

For six months I wished his adora­bil­ity away, pray­ing for blad­der con­trol to kick in. But with ma­tu­rity – of sorts – came hair loss and nerve. By the time he was one year old he had pro­duced suf­fi­cient hair to weave enough wool for at least three adult-sized jumpers twice over. On top of that he de­vel­oped an un­usual ap­petite for glasses. So far he’s con­sumed three pairs.

The sec­ond and third pairs weren’t so bad, the first was the worst. They weren’t a cheap over-the-counter kind, they were the bells-and-whis­tles kind. An over-€400 kind that makes you cry when all that re­mains is one man­gled arm peer­ing out from un­der the cov­ers of his bed.

His cheeky ap­petite for shoes, mean­while, is not so un­usual, so I’m told. Ap­par­ently it’s a dog thing. It ap­pears that the one sure way to guar­an­tee the need for a new pair of run­ners, even af­ter Mum says no, is to ac­ci­den­tally leave them within chomp­ing dis­tance of Milo. He is in­dis­crim­i­nate in his taste for footwear and has con­sumed at this stage a full mea­sure of sizes and styles, from flat walk­ers to leg-wob­bling plat­forms.

In the be­gin­ning the walk­ing du­ties were equally shared be­tween the older kids. It was all go­ing so well that I started to feel guilty about my neg­a­tive pre­mo­ni­tions of be­ing left hold­ing the lead but sadly it was the nov­elty that caved in first. And once that was gone, well it has be­come the chore that no one wants to do. So un­less I pay some­one to do it, it’s mostly me. And that’s why, I tell my kids, Milo loves me best of all!

They ve­he­mently dis­agree of course but I say it makes per­fect sense. I feed him, I walk him, I even let him sleep on my bed. Well, that’s not strictly true. I don’t ac­tu­ally let him, he kind of sneaks up on it. He’s a smart dog is Milo. He waits un­til I’m asleep, then jumps on the bot­tom of the bed, care­ful not to touch my legs, other­wise he’s a goner, and snug­gles down for the night or un­til I wake up and find him there, and hoosh him away.

De­spite all the down sides, the pee and the poo, the miss­ing shoes and glasses, the late night walks be­cause no one else has both­ered, the layer of dog hair that cov­ers every­thing and his dis­gust­ing at­trac­tion to fox poo – you’d think he’d learn – I think in our house we’re all in agree­ment that Milo is un­doubt­edly best thing that has hap­pened to our fam­ily in a long, long time. He’s a best friend to each of us.

His af­fec­tion is un­de­ni­able, un­con­di­tional and in­fi­nite. And for all his ey­e­rais­ing be­hav­iour he doesn’t hes­i­tate to rest his head on your lap, look up with those dark puppy eyes an­gling for a pet, or lie on his back in the hope of a tummy rub. He knows which one of us likes to play and which one prefers to cud­dle. He’s the ex­cuse we need to get out of the house. He’s the safety net for the kids who storm out in a huff. And some­times when things get too much he’s the medicine that helps take the pain away.

Be­ing a dog owner isn’t easy, it’s re­ally hard work and a con­sid­er­able com­mit­ment, but the pay­back is huge. I often get asked if I’d rec­om­mend it and in re­sponse I say, make sure you have the time and the en­ergy to give.

And mind your glasses...

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